Best Horse Racing Bets Today | Churchill Downs, June 29

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published June 28, 2024
7 min read

Other than Kentucky Derby weekend, there is no bigger day of racing at Churchill Downs than this Saturday. Leading the way on the big card will be the $1,000,000 Stephen Foster Stakes featuring some of the top older dirt males in the world. First Mission, coming in off two straight easy graded stakes victories for trainer Brad Cox, tops the classy field of nine.

Other highlights from the loaded afternoon include Ottoman Fleet looking to prove he is one of the top turf horses in the United States when he headlines the field for the $500,000 Wise Dan Stakes, as well as Scylla looking to show that she is a championship contender in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis. Without further ado, let’s get to my analysis and best bets for this great card of racing under the famed twin spires.

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Race #7 Wise Dan Stakes (Grade 2) $500,000 1 1/16-Miles Turf - 3:52pm EST

Trained by one of the world’s top turf trainers, Charlie Appleby, Ottoman Fleet looks to continue his barn’s domination in American graded stakes on the grass when he headlines a field of six older males in Saturday’s Grade 2 Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs.

A 5-year-old gelded son of the great Sea the Stars, Ottoman Fleet is a multiple graded stakes winner in both the U.S. and England. Only twice out of the money in 18 career starts, he is a neck shy of coming into this test on a three-race winning streak. After scoring for the second straight year in Newmarket’s Group 2 Earl of Sefton, he missed by a neck in the Grade 2  Fort Marcy at Aqueduct. Last out, he was a convincing winner of the Churchill Downs turf course in the Grade 3 Arlington.

Chasing the Crown finished second to Ottoman Fleet in the Arlington and could once again be his top competition. The consistent son of Skipshot was 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs before running a solid second to the favorite four weeks ago.

Of the rest, both Exaulted and Win for the Money are of interest. The latter comes off a romping win last time in a minor stakes race at Gulfstream Park. As for Exaulted, he has not run yet this year, but had an excellent turf campaign in California last season highlighted by a win in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. Hoping he is ready for his return, Exaulted is my top pick to pull off a minor upset.

My Plays

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Exaulted over Ottoman Fleet, Chasing the Crown, and Win for the Money = $30

  • $5 Exacta Part Wheel - Ottoman Fleet, Chasing the Crown, and Win for the Money over Exaulted = $15

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Race #8 Fleur de Lis Stakes (Grade 2) $500,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt - 4:25pm EST

Fresh off two very impressive wins at Churchill Downs for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, the royally bred Scylla figures to be heavily favored when she takes on five other quality fillies and mares in the $500,000 Fleur de Lis Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday. 

A full sister to graded stakes winners Tacitus and Batten Down, the 4-year-old daughter of Tapit and Close Hatches looked the part of a developing star with a 7-length win in an allowance race on the Kentucky Derby card. She validated that impressive score with an equally stylish score last time in the Grade 3 Shawnee Stakes.

Each of the other five in the 9-furlong Fleur de Lis are dangerous, but second choice should come down to the multiple graded stakes winner Xigera, who was runner-up behind Scylla last time, orShotgun Hottie, who comes in off a romping score at Pimlico in the Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes on Preakness weekend.

A longshot in the field, Taxed could benefit if the three favorites go after each other early on Saturday. A graded stakes winner herself, the daughter of Collected comes in off a sharp allowance score over the track and is often best when she comes with a late run. The winner of the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan last year, she will be my top upset pick in the Fleur de Lis.

My Play

  • $20 Win & Place - Taxed = $40

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Race #9 American Derby $250,000 1 1/16-Miles Turf- 4:58pm EST

A nose winner of the Grade 3 Penn Mile in his most recent start, First World War is the one to beat in a wide-open edition of the $250,000 American Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-old turf runners features a field of eight  where it’s hard to throw any horse out.

Already a two-time graded stakes winner, the son of War Front scored in the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park three starts back. After a three-length defeat in the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, the Brendan Walsh-trainee overcame early trouble and zoomed home to narrowly win last month at Penn National under Frankie Dettori, who will be aboard again in this one. 

If First World War is not favored on Saturday, look for the honor to go to Green Light. Since switching to the grass for his second career start, the son of Hard Spun has looked the part of a stakes performer. After a strong second-place finish at Keeneland, he romped home last time at Churchill Downs by more than ten lengths. This will represent much tougher competition, but he appears to be talented enough to compete.

An intriguing longshot in the American Derby will be Brilliant Berti. Trained by Cherie DeVaux, the son of Noble Mission has improved in each of his three career starts. After a fifth-place finish at Fair Grounds to begin his career, he has come to Churchill Downs and won two straight and looks ready for the bump up in class. Still, it’s hard to ignore the proven class of First World War. He is the top pick.

My Play 

  • $10 Exacta Box - First World War, Green Light, and Brilliant Berti = $60

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Race #11 Stephen Foster Stakes (Grade 1) $1,000,000 1 1/8-Miles Dirt - 6:03pm EST

One of the top rated horses in the nation, First Mission will be in search of his third consecutive graded stakes score when he leads the way in a strong field of nine in Saturday’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.

A son of Street Sense trained by Brad Cox, First Mission will be looking for his biggest victory yet here. After failing in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup in January, the 4-year-old dark bay has rebounded beautifully with a pair of romping wins. At Oaklawn Park, he cruised home a five-length winner, and last time at Churchill Downs he skipped home by four lengths in a sloppy edition of the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes.

The second choice in the $1 million Foster will also be in search of his third straight graded stakes score. Skippylongstocking was pulled up in the Pegasus World Cup after heat problems, but like First Mission has come back in grand style. A decisive winner of the Grade 3 Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs in March, he impressively scored in the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap last time out.

Second in the Grade 1 Travers in what turned out to be his final start of a solid sophomore season, Disarm returned a winner last time in a Churchill Downs allowance race. The son of Gun Runner will need to improve upon that effort to win this, but a graded stakes winner over the track already, he should move forward in his second start of 2024. In career best form, however, Skippylongstocking will be my top pick in the Foster.

My Plays

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Skippylongstocking over First Mission, Disarm, and Dreamlike = $30

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - First Mission, Disarm, and Dreamlike over Skippylongstocking = $30

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Brian Zipse

Horse Racing Betting Analyst

Horse Racing
Betting Picks
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Communications
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